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5 Remedies for Workplace Injuries

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
By Anne Kramer

Given the long hours of overtime and endless commutes most people endure at work each week, workplace injuries have grown increasingly more common. These include repetitive stress injuries (RSI’s) which can develop into more serious conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, which often requires surgery if left untreated. Taking a few simple steps at the onset of an injury can reduce or eliminate symptoms.

  1. Rest the painful area whenever possible. It is important to avoid, or at least adjust, activities that cause pain or discomfort. However, refrain from keeping the sore area completely immobile. This decreases flexibility, making re-injury more likely. 

  2. To reduce swelling and spasms, place an ice pack or cold pack on the injured area. Use the pack for no more than twenty minutes at a time, once per hour. Leaving the ice pack on for too long, or using one too frequently, can cause joint stiffness. A heating pad can be used for the same time periods. Hot and cold can be alternated, so long as there is a twenty-minute break between hot and cold exposures.

  3. Over-the-counter medications can also be effective at eliminating pain and swelling. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), which include aspirin and ibuprofen, work best at reducing swelling. Acetaminophen will also relieve pain. People under the age of twenty should not take aspirin, due to the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.

  4. Practice gentle stretching exercises targeted toward the area of injury. Regular stretching will help maintain flexibility and prevent stiffness. These can be continued after the injury is healed, to reduce the risk of further injury.

  5. Examine your workplace set-up to identify the tools or layout that contributed to the injury. Make changes as needed. This could be as simple as adding a document holder or mouse bridge. It may also be necessary to rearrange items on the desk, so that often used items are within easier reach, or to adjust the height of your chair or computer monitor.
Even if you are following these guidelines, it is important to remember that activities outside of the office can contribute to or even exacerbate injuries that originate in the workplace. Any activity that requires the same repetitive movement can aggravate an RSI. One such activity is the drive to work itself, which discourages proper posture and can irritate back and neck strain incurred on the job. Some remedies include carpooling or using public transit. A special seat cushion can also help.

If symptoms continue for more than a few days, or if they worsen, see a doctor as soon as possible. Persistent pain or swelling can be a sign that the injury has progressed to the point that more long-term care is necessary.

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